DENVER -- He could've hoped for better odds.
But waiting as long as he had for his first NHL start, Mike Morrison wasn't about to turn down the tap on the shoulder from coach Craig MacTavish when it finally came last night.
So, with the weary Edmonton Oilers straggling into the Pepsi Center for the final stop on their longest road trip of the season, needing a win to make it a .500 swing, Morrison's instructions against Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay and an Avs team on a 6-1-1 roll in its last eight games were pretty straightforward: go get 'em, kid.
Whether MacTavish's decision to sit workhorse Jussi Markkanen after 14 consecutive starts was a hunch or just a roll of the dice, Morrison made the most of his chance, beating the odds and the Avalanche with 31 saves in a dazzling debut on the way to a 5-2 Oilers win. How about that?
"I felt fine out there," Morrison said matter-of-factly. "I just tried to keep it simple and do the things I've always done. The guys really took over the game in the third period."
MORRISON GOT IT DONE
With goals by Ryan Smyth, Ethan Moreau, Chris Pronger - whose first goal as an Oiler 14:13 into the second period stood as the winner - Raffi Torres and Marty Reasoner, Morrison got it done, beating David Aebischer straight up in snapping the Colorado stopper's personal seven-game winning streak.
It was gritty and somewhat unexpected stuff but the opportunistic Oilers and Morrison found a way, packing for home with two points and a 4-3 record on the trip.
"I'll take it. Hopefully, there's more of those," said Pronger, who one-timed an Ales Hemsky feed behind Aebischer. "That was one of those good team-building games for us. We did a lot of good things. Mike made some great saves for us to keep the lead. He held the fort for us and then we took over."
The Avalanche had most of the play early, but Morrison had a 2-0 lead to work with in the first 11 minutes.
First, Smyth waltzed out of the corner and went top shelf on Aebischer at 9:28, then Moreau bulled to the net and redirected Jarret Stoll's shot for the two-goal margin 53 seconds later.
Morrison almost got the Oilers to the first intermission up by a pair, but Rob Blake cut it to 2-1 on a power play when he ripped a snapshot upstairs with 44 seconds to play in the period.
Colorado's power play struck again after the Oilers took three straight penalties in the second period, and No. 4 had a hand in things one more time as Ian Laperriere shovelled the rebound of Blake's point shot behind Morrison at 10:09.
Morrison buckled down and Pronger put the Oilers ahead to stay, despite Colorado holding a 25-14 margin on the shot clock.
"That helped with the confidence, absolutely," Morrison said. "I have to give a lot of credit to the guys in front of me. All the guys did a great job out there sacrificing themselves and blocking shots."
When Hemsky set up Torres for the 4-2 goal just over two minutes into the third period - Torres had only to tap-in Hemsky's feed after a sweet toe-drag by the talented Czech - the Oilers had more than enough.
"Tonight's game really earmarks what the road trip was," said MacTavish of the 4-3 mark on the longest swing of the season. "The pass or fail mark was delivered with the result tonight. We've had opportunities that we didn't cash in on. It very easily could have been a terrific road trip."
AROUND THE RINK ... The Oilers scratched Alexei Semenov for the third straight game and also sat Jani Rita and Todd Harvey.